The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is an elimination diet. But, it also more than that. It is a nutrient-rich approach that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system and a template for adopting diet and lifestyle changes that serve your health.
The Autoimmune Protocol helps heal the gut, to restore normal/healthy gut microorganisms, to reduce inflammation and to regulate the immune system both through healing the gut, regulating hormones and addressing micronutrient deficiencies. (Sarah Ballantyne, ‘The Paleo Approach, Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body’)
A leaky gut and imbalances in gut microorganisms are considered to be involved in all autoimmune diseases. They are directly related to diet and lifestyle. According to the very experienced and knowledgable Sarah Ballantyne, AIP helps to heal the gut, to restore healthy gut microorganisms, to reduce inflammation and to regulate the immune system both through healing the gut, regulating hormones and addressing micronutrient deficiencies. Count me in!
But, what does it mean in practical terms? Well, when it comes to your diet it means you cut out all grains, pulses, refined sugars, trans fats found in modern vegetable oils, and processed food. Your pantry will never look the same again! Dairy of any kind (even grass-fed ghee) will also now be avoided for a while.
And, the following foods are part of the ‘elimination phase’, too:
Seeds (including cocoa, coffee – yes, coffee! – and seed-based spices)
Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, capsicums, chillis, cayenne, and all spices derived from peppers, including paprika)
Fructose consumption in excess of 20g per day (that’s a couple of pieces of fruit)
NSAIDS (like aspirin or ibuprofen)
all other food additives
So what CAN you eat?
The primary focus on the AIP is eating a nutrient-rich diet. Deficiencies in nutrients are the strongest diet-related factors contributing to increased risk of autoimmune disease. And, just as some foods are eliminated, there is also a focus on eating more of the very nutrient-rich foods:
fish and shellfish
vegetables of all kinds (lots and LOTS of fresh vegetables)
quality meat (grass-fed, pasture-raised and happy is best)
quality fats (pasture-raised/grass-fed and happy animal fats, fatty fish, olive, avocado, coconut
fruit (keeping fructose intake under 20 g daily)
probiotic foods (things like fermented vegetables, kombucha and kefir, and probiotic supplements)
glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue, joints or skin, organ meat, and bone broth)
You eat like this for at least 30 days. After that, depending on how you feel, you’ll either continue or you'll start reintroducing foods – one by one – to see if they cause a reaction.
Of course, diet is just one element of continued good health. Getting enough sleep, moving every day, spending time outside in the sunshine and managing stress – both at home and at work – are all important factors, too.